Nutrition-wise blog

Sugar is sugar — Don't be fooled

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. June 7, 2012

The Food and Drug Administration recently denied a petition by the Corn Refiners Association to rename high fructose corn syrup "corn sugar." Soon after that, the mayor of New York City proposed prohibiting the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks ("large" defined as more than 16 fluid ounces).

These two events could be viewed as big government regulating what should be personal choice. However, to me, they demonstrate our conflicted feelings about the sweet stuff. Whether sweetness is in the form of table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), both contain fairly equal amounts of fructose.

As a sweetener, HFCS has been controversial. Food scientists are exploring how the body handles it and if there are differences from table sugar. It's great that we can distinguish HFCS from sugar on food labels. Especially because there are people with fructose intolerance who absolutely must avoid HCFS.

Soft drink makers are even switching from HFCS back to sugar. After all, sugar seems more natural and even healthier — right?

Nope.

Sugar-containing drinks, such as fruit drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened bottled waters, are the major source of added sugar in the American diet. About half of the U.S. population — adults and children 2 years old and over — have sugary drinks on any given day.

This habitual sipping of sugary drinks has been linked to poor diet, weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

So don't be fooled. The recent decision to not allow HFCS to be called sugar is fine by me. But the trend away from HFCS to sugar in soft drinks is no improvement.

The proposed ban on the sale of large sugary drinks in New York City is fine by me too as a wake-up call to kick our national addiction to sweets.

What are your thoughts?

- Jennifer

52 Comments Posted

Jun. 07, 2012